Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
by
Plaintiffs sought unpaid overtime wages, liquidated damages, and waiting time penalties from two residential care facilities with a sole member, Chou. A hearing officer awarded $2.5 million. Chou’s liability was $2.2 million. The trial court allowed the defendants to file appeals conditionally, subject to being stricken if their petition to waive the bond requirement was denied. Chou submitted a declaration stating that he and the businesses lacked the financial ability to pay the awards or to make the deposit; that he had contacted bonding companies but could not provide required security; and that he was willing to provide financial statements, for the court’s in camera review, citing his bankruptcy and divorce. Plaintiffs submitted evidence that, while the action was pending, Chou had transferred title to four residential care facilities, and another property to trusts and LLCs of which Chou’s wife was the sole manager; that the value of the four properties collectively exceeded five million dollars; and that a fifth property had been purchased for $1,050,000. Chou cited mortgage debt, claiming that the properties were transferred for “an estate plan.” Chou was not present at the hearing. The trial court stated that there were no witnesses regarding the defendants’ financial position and found Chou’s assertions not credible. The court rejected, as untimely, Chou’s attorney’s offer to arrange for Chou to come to court and denied the request for a waiver of the requirement of an undertaking, dismissing the appeals from the award. The court of appeal affirmed. The trial court provided an adequate hearing, consistent with due process. View "Cardinal Care Management, LLC v. Afable" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs Ducksworth and Pollock filed suit alleging claims of race discrimination, and Pollock also alleged a sexual harassment claim. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Scotts and Pacific, holding that the staffing agencies were not involved in Tri-Modal's decisionmaking about whom to promote. The court also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Tri-Modal's executive vice president, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Pollock's hearsay objection to a declaration. The court also held that the trial court correctly concluded that Government Code section 12960, former subdivision (d) bars Pollock's claims because she did not file her administrative complaint within one year of March 2017, the time that those claims accrued. View "Ducksworth v. Tri-Modal Distribution Services" on Justia Law

by
EF appealed from the trial court's judgment awarding vacation wages to three of EF's former exempt employees. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that Labor Code section 227.3 applies to EF's purported "unlimited" paid time off policy based on the particular facts of this case. In this case, EF never told its employees that they had unlimited paid vacation; EF had no written policy or agreement to that effect, nor did its employee handbook cover these plaintiffs; and plaintiffs took less vacation than many of EF's other managers and exempt employees covered by the handbook, whose accrued vacation vested as they worked for EF month after month. View "McPherson v. EF Intercultural Foundation, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of plaintiffs on their negligence cause of action against Technicolor. The jury found that Technicolor had been negligent and that its negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm to plaintiffs, assigning 95 percent responsibility to Technicolor. After the trial court reduced the jury's damages awards, judgment was entered in the amount of $803,838.30 for economic damages and $2,083,920 for noneconomic damages, for a total award of $2,887,758.30. The court held that substantial evidence supported the verdict where there was substantial evidence that Technicolor could have satisfied the labor verification requirement, and that Technicolor's negligence left plaintiffs in a worse position. The court also held that workers' compensation exclusivity was inapplicable and rejected Technicolor's remaining claims. View "Reynaud v. Technicolor Creative Services USA" on Justia Law

by
After a hospital and medical group created a hostile work environment and wrongfully discharged three nurses based on their opposition to a supervisor's harassment, the jury awarded the nurses substantial past and future economic and noneconomic damages suffered up to and after -- but not during -- their second round of employment. Both parties appealed. The Court of Appeal held that plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies against the medical group; insufficient evidence supported some of the jury's findings and its damages awards; and the trial court made several prejudicial evidentiary errors. The court also held that the second medical group may not be held liable on an alter ego theory. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Alexander v. Community Hospital of Long Beach" on Justia Law

by
Non-California residents and former crew members of a vessel filed suit alleging violations of California state wage and hour laws against their employers and the owners of the vessel (petitioners). The trial court denied petitioners' motion for summary judgment on the theories that Louisiana rather than California law governed the employment relationships at issue, and that either the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or the dormant commerce clause preempted California law with respect to these employees. The Court of Appeal granted petitioners' writ of mandate, holding that the trial court erred because Louisiana law, rather than California law, was applicable in this case. The court held that Louisiana's interest in the application of its laws was stronger than California's interest. Among other things, the employment relationships were formed in Louisiana, between Louisiana-based employers and non-resident employees who traveled to that state to apply for, and accept employment. Furthermore, they received training and orientation in Louisiana and the administrative aspects of their employment were performed in that state. View "Gulf Offshore Logistics, LLC v. Superior Court of Ventura County" on Justia Law

by
Temporary staffing agency FlexCare, LLC assigned Lynn Grande to work as a nurse at Eisenhower Medical Center (Eisenhower). According to Grande, during her employment at Eisenhower, FlexCare and Eisenhower failed to ensure she received her required meal and rest breaks, wages for certain periods she worked, and overtime wages. Grande was a named plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against FlexCare brought on behalf of FlexCare employees assigned to hospitals throughout California. Her own claims were based solely on her work on assignment at Eisenhower. FlexCare settled with the class, including Grande, and Grande received $162.13 for her injuries, plus a class representative incentive bonus of $20,000. Grande executed a release of claims, and the trial court entered a judgment incorporating the settlement agreement. About a year later, Grande brought a second class action alleging the same labor law violations, this time against Eisenhower, who was not a party to the previous lawsuit. FlexCare intervened in the action asserting Grande could not bring the separate lawsuit against Eisenhower because she had settled her claims against them in the prior class action. The trial court held a trial narrowed to questions as to the propriety of the lawsuit, and ruled Eisenhower was not a released party under the settlement agreement and could not avail itself of the doctrine of res judicata because the hospital was neither a party to the prior litigation nor in privity with FlexCare. Eisenhower petitioned for a petition for a writ of mandate and FlexCare appealed the trial court’s interlocutory order. The Court of appeal concurred with the trial court on grounds that Eisenhower and FlexCare were not in privity, preventing Eisenhower from blocking Grande’s claims under the doctrine of res judicata, and Eisenhower was not a released party under the settlement agreement. Therefore the appellate court denied mandamus relief. View "Grande v. Eisenhower Medical Center" on Justia Law

by
Sun Pacific appealed the trial court's judgment after a jury awarded damages against it for injuries sustained by an employee of one of its independent contractors. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court prejudicially erred because it did not instruct the jury on the Privette/Hooker doctrine as it applies to either negligence or premises liability. In this case, the trial court instructed the jury that Sun Pacific was liable if its failure to use reasonable care was a substantial factor in harming the employee, but did not say that that principle only applied to the hirer of an independent contractor if its negligent exercise of retained control over safety conditions affirmatively contributed to the harm. Furthermore, the trial court told the jury that Sun Pacific was liable if its negligent use or maintenance of the property was a substantial factor in harming the employee, but did not say that these principles would only apply to Sun Pacific if the hazard were concealed. Therefore, the court held that each instruction was an incorrect statement of law and Sun Pacific has not forfeited its contention. The court also held that the trial court's error was prejudicial. The court held that Sun Pacific was entitled to a mitigation of damages of instruction; the court reversed and remanded for a new trial on the negligence cause of action; and the court directed the trial court to enter judgment in favor of Sun Pacific on the premises liability cause of action. View "Alaniz v. Sun Pacific Shippers, L.P." on Justia Law

by
Brome started with the California Highway Patrol in 1996; he transferred offices twice. Other officers subjected Brome, who was openly gay, to derogatory comments; singled him out for pranks; and refused to provide him with backup assistance. Brome filed administrative complaints, including with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The incidents continued. Brome won the Solano Area Officer of the Year Award in 2013, but the Patrol never displayed his photograph, in a break from office practice. Through 2014, Brome complained to his superiors. The problems continued and Brome feared for his life during enforcement stops, experienced headaches, muscle pain, stomach issues, anxiety, and stress, and became suicidal. Brome went on medical leave and filed a successful workers’ compensation claim. He took industrial disability retirement. The court dismissed his claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (Gov. Code 12900), as untimely, rejecting Brome’s claim that he was constructively discharged. The court of appeal reversed. The filing of the workers’ compensation claim could equitably toll the one-year deadline for filing his discrimination claim; equitable tolling would not prejudice the Patrol. After years of harassment, Brome was struggling to recover; although 11 months elapsed, Brome can meet the good faith requirement. While it is not the only possible conclusion, there is enough evidence for a reasonable trier of fact to conclude that the Patrol knowingly permitted the conditions and should have known that a reasonable employee would resign. View "Brome v. California Highway Patrol" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the superior court's denial of administrative mandamus relief in an action stemming from the Appeals Board's decision finding that the company violated various state regulations. The court held that the superior court properly applied the substantial evidence standard of review. The court also held that, based on an examination of the administrative record, substantial evidence supported the Appeals Board's findings that the company freely and voluntarily consented to the inspection; Cal/OSHA's failure to preserve the original inspection file did not deprive the company of due process; and the violations underlying the four contested citations were properly classified. View "Nolte Sheet Metal v. Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board" on Justia Law